Science & Environment

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Severe drought in Amazon reveals millennia-old carvings
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Fernando Crispim And Edmar Barros
Published Oct 28, 2023 • 2 minute read
Archaeologist Jaime Oliveira sits next to rock paintings
Archaeologist Jaime Oliveira sits next to rock paintings at the Ponta das Lajes archaeological site, in the rural area of Manaus, Brazil, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. PHOTO BY EDMAR BARROS /Associated Press
MANAUS — The Negro River, the major tributary that runs through the Brazilian Amazon, has reached historic lows, revealing millennia-old carvings previously hidden under water.


The engravings deeply etched into the black rock along the riverbanks represent human faces, animals and other figures, and are thought to be 1,000 to 2,000 years old, archaeologists said.


“They allow us to understand the way of life of prehistoric populations,” Jaime de Santana Oliveira, an archaeologist with Brazil’s National Historic and Artistic Heritage Institute, said.

The scientists think other rocks at the site were used to sharpen arrows and stone tools.

The Ponto das Lajes archaeological site is located in the rural area of Manaus, the largest city and capital of Amazonas state. From there, locals and tourists can observe the “Meeting of Waters,” which occurs when the dark, Coca-Cola-coloured Negro River and the pale, clay-coloured Solimoes River converge without merging and run parallel to each other over several miles.


The petroglyphs first were spotted in 2010, when another bad drought struck the region, but had not been observable since then before the current drought.

Low river levels in Amazonas have turned once navigable rivers into endless sand banks and mud, leaving hundreds of communities isolated. Public authorities have scrambled to get food and water to those communities in recent weeks.

Earlier this week, The Associated Press observed the delivery of basic goods. Boats had to dock miles away, forcing residents, most of them small farmers and fishermen, to walk long distances.

Manaus and other nearby cities are experiencing high temperatures and heavy smoke from fires set for deforestation and pasture clearance. The drought is also the likely cause of dozens of river dolphin deaths in Tefe Lake, near the Amazon River.

Dry spells are part of the Amazon’s cyclical weather pattern, usually from May to October. This season’s drought has been fiercer than usual due to two climate phenomena: the warming of northern tropical Atlantic Ocean waters and El Nino — the warming of surface waters in the Equatorial Pacific region.
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Processed foods as addictive as alcohol, nicotine: Study
Author of the article:Kevin Connor
Published Oct 29, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 1 minute read
Heavily processed foods are just as addictive as booze and smokes, according to a new study.

Heavily processed foods are just as addictive as booze and smokes, according to a new study.


Researchers in the United States, Spain and Brazil, say signs of ultra-processed food addiction were found in 14% of adults and 12% of children, according to the Yale Food Addiction Scale.


Researchers looked at statistics found in 281 studies from 36 countries and determined addiction rates for processed food are “similar to the levels of addiction seen for other legal substances in adults,” including alcohol (14%) and tobacco (18%). The level of implied addiction is “unprecedented” for children, the study found.

Ultra-processed foods include chips, candy and sugary breakfast cereals, which are high in fat and carbohydrates.

Researchers said that the speed at which ultra-processed foods deliver ingredients to the stomach may be crucial to their “addictive potential,” as they work faster than minimally-processed foods, and can also affect the brain faster.


Researchers said that “behaviours around ultra-processed food may meet the criteria for diagnosis of substance use disorder in some people.”

According to Heathline, food addiction symptoms include craving food when full and eating more than needed.

Food addiction is not classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is used by medical professionals to diagnose mental disorders.

Erin Palinski-Wade, a registered dietitian nutritionist, told Fox Digital News that “food cravings are complex and tied into not just the nutrition profile of a food, but also the emotions and learned behaviours around eating.”

Palinski-Wade said that foods with high levels of sugar and fat are associated with cravings that can lead to “addictive-like eating behaviours.”

Registered dietitian nutritionist Kelsey Costa, who was also not involved in the original study, said making healthier food options more affordable through policy reforms may help address the issue.

“The social, economic, and structural factors contributing to the pervasive consumption of [ultra-processed foods] and their addictive potential remain significant challenges to public health,” Costa said.
 

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As clocks fall back Sunday, Toronto drivers urged to use caution
Pedestrian collisions go up 30 per cent during the evening rush hour between November and March

Author of the article:Jane Stevenson
Published Oct 30, 2023 • 1 minute read

As the clocks fall back on Sunday (Nov. 5) to return to standard time, the city of Toronto is reminding drivers to take care on the roads.


The city says fewer daylight hours and reduced visibility means “pedestrian collisions increase by more than 30% during the evening commute hours from November to March.”


“It definitely has some impact,” said Toronto personal injury lawyer Joshua Goldberg of Joshua Goldberg Law.

“I just think it’s something that people should be aware of. It’s a risk and it’s important for people to think about because that’s how they check themselves — by being informed. It’s just important in terms of prevention. ”

As a result of fewer daylight hours and reduced visibility, drivers are being asked to follow these safety tips from Sunday onwards:

– Slow down and stay alert when driving and always turn slowly.



Experts warn of health issues when 'falling back' with end of daylight saving time

– Ensure headlights and signal lights are working properly.

– Stick to speed limits and approach all crosswalks, intersections and transit stops cautiously.

– Always give yourself plenty of time to your destination and plan your route in advance.

– Use public transit when possible.

Ontario had been considering ditching time changes to permanently stay on Daylight Saving Time but is waiting on both Quebec and New York State to make the move at the same time, which they have yet to do.
 

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18 MZOs given to developers who were guests at Ford's family wedding: NDP
Marit Stiles says being friends with the premier has its benefits

Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Published Oct 30, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 2 minute read

Ontario has given out 18 Minister’s Zoning Orders for developer projects to guests who attended a wedding of Premier Doug Ford’s daughter last summer, the New Democrats said Monday.


The land-planning tool can be used to fast-track development in a given area and the Progressive Conservative government has been criticized in the past for how often it uses the mechanism also known as an MZO.


NDP Leader Marit Stiles said being friends with Ford has its benefits.

“We’ve uncovered that Mr. Ford’s Conservatives have issued as many MZOs to benefit attendees of a single Ford family wedding reception as the previous Liberal government handed out in 15 years,” Stiles said.

Nine of those 18 MZOs were given out to Flato Developments, which is owned by Shakir Rehmatullah, a longtime Ford friend, the NDP said.

Former minister Kaleed Rasheed resigned along with Ford’s former housing policy director, Jay Trusdell, after revelations they went to Las Vegas with Rehmatullah and the premier’s former principal secretary, Amin Massoudi.


Rehmatullah also benefited from the Ford government’s move to take out land last year from the protected Greenbelt for housing development. The government has since said it is reversing those removals and returning 15 parcels of land to the Greenbelt following public outcry and scathing reports from two legislative watchdogs.

The 18 zoning orders highlighted by the NDP on Monday largely enable development on farmland in the Toronto area.

Stiles said the murkiness behind issuing zoning orders is a problem that needs to be fixed, and accused the Ford government of malfeasance.

“It really seems like being a friend of the Ford family does have its perks,” Stiles said. “This is an outrageous way for a government to operate.”


In early September, Steve Clark resigned as housing minister after the auditor general and the integrity commissioner found in separate reports that the process to remove lands from the Greenbelt was rushed and favoured certain developers over others.

The RCMP has launched an investigation into the matter.

Housing Minister Paul Calandra said Monday that he is conducting a review of MZOs, but said the province will continue to use them to build housing faster.

“The vast majority of the ministerial zoning orders specifically were requested by municipalities,” Calandra said.

“But where I want to go back and look are those that have not made any progress, that aren’t meeting the goals of building housing.”

Calandra said he is not concerned about most of the zoning orders handed out because he gave out the majority of them for long-term care homes when he was in charge of that portfolio.

But he said he is committed to changing the process for using MZOs.

“I think there’s a better process of doing it and making it more open so people can see exactly why the request is being made and how it’s being made,” he said.

Calandra also recently reversed course on the province’s urban boundary expansions of several cities and regions, including Ottawa and Hamilton.
 

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Toronto has most rodents in Canada
Author of the article:Kevin Connor
Published Oct 31, 2023 • 1 minute read
Toronto has been ranked the rattiest city in Canada for the second year in a row, by Orkin Canada.
Toronto has been ranked the rattiest city in Canada for the second year in a row, by Orkin Canada.
Toronto has been ranked the rattiest city in Canada for the second year in a row, by Orkin Canada.


Big cities such as Toronto and Vancouver continue to be tops on the list for rats.


The rankings are based on the number of commercial and residential rodent treatments that Orkin carried out from Aug. 1, 2022, through July 31, 2023.

The top 10 rattiest cities in Canada in 2023 are Toronto at No. 1, followed by Vancouver, Burnaby, Kelowna, Mississauga, Richmond, Victoria, Ottawa, Scarborough, and Moncton.

“Rat and mice calls used to be expected primarily in the fall and winter as they escape the cold outdoors, but now they are becoming a year-round effort,” said Dr. Alice Sinia, pest specialist and entomologist with Orkin Canada.

“Longer summer seasons coupled with abundant food sources provide ideal conditions for exponential growth in rodent populations, which is why it is more important than ever to use integrated pest management techniques to tackle all of the conditions that allow mice and rats to proliferate.”



Orkin has some tips to be rat-free such as sealing cracks or holes in exterior walls, and installing weather stripping around windows and doors.

Also, install screens on utility openings and ducts; reduce harbourage by trimming shrubs and grass; store objects away from exterior walls and about 45 cm off the ground; rodent-proof sheds, which can be major breeding spots for rodents in winter; practice good waste disposal by keeping garbage and food waste away from your property.

For more information about rodent prevention, visit orkincanada.ca.
 

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A woman felt something in her ear. A spider was living in her ear canal.
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Jonathan Edwards, The Washington Post
Published Nov 01, 2023 • 3 minute read

A 64-year-old woman in Taiwan woke up one morning in April and felt something rustling in her ear. When the noise persisted, she went to a clinic, where a doctor used a scope to peer into her ear canal.


The doctor took a photo of what he found and showed it to her.


“The patient screamed,” Tengchin Wang, director of the otolaryngology department at Show Chwan Memorial Hospital, said in a statement to The Washington Post.

The picture showed a tiny spider scurrying inside her left ear next to an exoskeleton it had shed. The doctor also shot a video, which became the centrepiece of a recent case study in the New England Journal of Medicine – and nightmare fuel for arachnophobes everywhere.

After awakening to the rustling, the woman at first tried to wait out the problem, according to the journal article. But over the next four days, the issue produced an incessant array of noises – beating, clicking and more rustling. The woman suffered insomnia as a result, and after four days of torment, she finally went to a clinic, where a doctor, upon hearing her symptoms, suspected an insect had made its way into her ear canal.


Not quite, but not far off. The doctor used his otoscope to peer into her left ear and saw the spider – an arachnid, not an insect – and its exoskeleton, Wang said in an email. He took a photograph and showed it to the woman, who was shocked.

Wang then used a suction tube to remove the spider, which was about two millimetres wide. Once he did, the woman’s symptoms abated, and she went home.

Wang said he believes the spider was a hasarius adansoni, which is more commonly known as an Adanson’s House Jumping Spider and described as an “inquisitive and audacious cosmopolitan species” found in warmer climates around the world.

Neelima Tummala, an assistant professor of surgery at the George Washington Medical Faculty Associates, said she wasn’t shocked by the news from the New England Journal of Medicine. She has found about a half-dozen bugs in patients’ ears in the five years that she has been an ear, nose and throat specialist. Her peers have all found them, too, she said.


It’s not common, “but it’s definitely not unheard of,” she added.

Research suggests that insects make up 14 to 18% of all foreign bodies found in ear canals.

But Tummala has never come across a spider in the thousands of ears she has examined. Most of the bugs she has run into are flies. She once discovered a small bee that had flown into a patient’s ear while they were driving. By the time Tummala got to it, the bee had died and was easy to remove. The last bug she came across was a fly that had flown into her patient’s ear and laid eggs.

“There were maggots in the ear,” she said.

That caused an infection, but once Tummala treated it, the patient was fine.

Anyone who thinks a bug might have made its way into their ear should see an ear, nose and throat specialist, or if that’s not possible, their general practitioner, she said. Tummala cautioned against sticking something like a cotton swab into the ear or trying to flush out a foreign object with drops because doing so can puncture the eardrum.

Although admittedly gross, removing an insect or even an arachnid from an ear canal is fairly easy once you get into a specialist’s office, she said. The most severe injury she’s seen from a bug was an outer ear infection.

“My advice,” she said, “is don’t freak out.”
 

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Men arrested in investigation into famous tree that was felled near Hadrian’s Wall
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Published Nov 01, 2023 • 1 minute read
Police stand beside the cordoned-off area, where the 'Sycamore Gap' tree on Hadrian's Wall now lies on the ground, leaving behind only a stump in the spot it once proudly stood on Sept. 28, 2023 northeast of Haltwhistle, England.
Police stand beside the cordoned-off area, where the 'Sycamore Gap' tree on Hadrian's Wall now lies on the ground, leaving behind only a stump in the spot it once proudly stood on Sept. 28, 2023 northeast of Haltwhistle, England. PHOTO BY JEFF J MITCHELL /Getty Images
LONDON — Two more men have been arrested in the investigation into who cut down the world-famous Sycamore Gap tree, police in England said Wednesday.


The men, both in their 30s, were released on bail Tuesday without being charged in the felling of the iconic sycamore that stood for about 150 years next to the Roman landmark of Hadrian’s Wall, according to Northumbria Police.


On the night between Sept. 27 and 28, the tree was cut down, causing some damage to the wall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built nearly 2,000 years ago, when Britain was part of the Roman Empire, to guard its northwestern frontier.

The 50-foot-tall (15-metre) tree planted in the 1800s stood out in a dip between two hills along the wall and became famous after it appeared in Kevin Costner’s 1991 film “Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves.” It became a popular subject for photographers.

Police arrested a 16-year-old boy and a man in his 60s soon after the fallen tree was discovered. Each was released after questioning.


People in the Northumberland area and nature lovers across Britain have been outraged by what police described as “senseless destruction” and an act of vandalism.

“The loss of Sycamore Gap has been felt deeply across the community as well as further afield,” Detective Chief Inspector Rebecca Fenney-Menzies said. “As a force, we have seen many touching tributes from those who have detailed what this iconic landmark meant for them personally and for our region.”

A crane was used last month to remove the tree in large sections. The National Trust, which seeks to protect England’s heritage and natural landscapes, is storing the tree in a safe, undisclosed location.

The stump is being protected behind a barrier to see if it will generate new shoots. Seeds were collected from the tree that could be used to propagate saplings.
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An apocalyptic dust plume killed off the dinosaurs, study says
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Carolyn Y. Johnson, The Washington Post
Published Nov 01, 2023 • 4 minute read
A new study suggests a dust plume killed off the dinosaurs.
A new study suggests a dust plume killed off the dinosaurs.
The mighty dinosaurs may have been done in by dust, according to a new study in Nature Geoscience.


For decades, scientists have known that a giant asteroid smashed into what is now the Yucatán Peninsula roughly 66 million years ago. Most experts agree the event triggered a mass extinction that wiped out three-quarters of all species, including almost all the dinosaurs.


But precisely how the impact led to an apocalypse has remained unsettled, with much attention focused on the “impact winter” that occurred afterward – a period of cold, global darkness.

In 1980, scientists posited that the asteroid kicked up a big cloud of pulverized rock dust that starved plants of sunlight. But more recent investigations focused on sun-blocking soot from the initial impact and subsequent global wildfires, or on long-lived sulfur aerosols released by the cataclysm.


The question of how the sun was blocked, and for how long, has been critical to tease out because it shaped the evolution of life on the planet in fundamental ways. A prolonged period of darkness that shut down plants’ ability to turn sunlight into energy could have led to the collapse of the entire food chain. Understanding how life responded and, in some cases, outlasted such an extreme climatic event may provide insight into future extinctions.

For the new study, researchers coupled computer simulation with an analysis of sediment layers at the Tanis paleontology site, which preserves the aftermath of the Chicxulub impact in extraordinary detail. The work reveals that a massive plume of fine-grained dust blanketed the planet and would have lingered in the atmosphere for 15 years, cooling Earth’s surface by 27 degrees and shutting down photosynthesis for two years.


“Dust could shut down photosynthesis for such a long time that it could pose severe challenges,” said Cem Berk Senel, a planetary scientist at the Royal Observatory of Belgium who led the study. “It could result in a chain reaction of extinction to all species in the food chain.”

New clues from North Dakota
Many research teams have attempted to model the aftermath of the Chicxulub impact. The new study stands out because the team drew on data from the Tanis site in present-day North Dakota, which was unveiled to the public in 2019. Unique among fossil sites, Tanis captures the immediate aftermath of the impact event in such incredible detail that scientists can tell what season the dinosaurs died. (It was a spring day in the late Cretaceous.)


Senel’s team discovered fine dust grains from the Tanis site are about the same size as microscopic bacteria, a small but not too-tiny size range that would have allowed the dust to persist in the atmosphere for 15 years. That means dust would have made a greater contribution to blocking sunlight from reaching the surface than soot particles or sulfur aerosols, they report.

“It is a fascinating study,” Clay Tabor, an assistant professor in the earth sciences department at the University of Connecticut, wrote in an email. Tabor in 2020 published a paper in Geophysical Research Letters showing that soot from fires would have been a primary driver of photosynthetic shutdown.

Tabor said the new information on dust size will help improve simulations of the climate after the impact. The grains of dust the researchers discovered could have persisted in the atmosphere for a long time, according to the model the researchers used, leading to a larger decrease in surface sunlight than other sun-blocking particles.


But he questioned whether differences in climate models might explain the differences between various studies. For example, the new model predicted a similar amount of soot would have had a smaller effect on sunlight than some previous models.

The behaviour of tiny particles in the atmosphere is complicated, and “these processes can be difficult to accurately simulate, especially in the extreme case of the Chicxulub impact,” Tabor said.

Kunio Kaiho, a planetary scientist at Tohoku University, has published research showing that the asteroid smashed into Earth at just the right spot to cause a mass extinction, striking oil-rich rocks to generate sun-blocking soot.

Kaiho said the new study “holds significant importance in our understanding of the mechanisms responsible for global cooling and mass extinctions.”


A ‘potpourri’ of catastrophe
The giant impact didn’t just create a dust cloud. The six-mile-wide asteroid sent shudders through the earth, generating tsunamis. It ejected debris that then fell back down, heating the atmosphere upon reentry to cause global wildfires. It kicked up rock dust and other types of aerosols, and it released greenhouse gases that kicked off a later period of global warming that may have lasted for tens of thousands of years.

David Kring, a planetary scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston who was not involved in the study, said that the new work affirms the original hypothesis behind the mass extinction, which attributed the shutdown of photosynthesis to dust.

“The duration of darkness is really important, because if, in fact, photosynthesis was shut down and that drove extinctions, it has to be dark for a fairly substantial length of time,” Kring said.

But he added that the wide-ranging environmental consequences of the impact – from the global wildfires to sulfuric acid rain to major climatic shifts – make it hard to tease out a singular cause for the widespread deaths.

“Each of those environmental consequences affected different parts of the world and lasted for different amounts of time,” he said. “So one of the things that we understand in general, and not yet in detail, is that it’s really this potpourri of environmental effects that led to the extinctions. There’s no single silver bullet.”
 

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Auditor general conducting Ontario Place, Ontario Science Centre audits

Author of the article:
Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Published Nov 03, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 1 minute read


Ontario’s auditor general’s office says it is conducting audits on the Ontario Place and the Ontario Science Centre.


The Progressive Conservative government is redeveloping Ontario Place, including a plan to move the science centre there from its current east Toronto location, and including plans for a waterpark and spa by European company Therme.


That plan has faced opposition from some community groups and members of the public, with a parking garage paid for by the government and the long-term nature of the lease with Therme facing particular criticism.

A spokesperson for the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario says it has not yet been determined whether those audits will be released as part of the auditor’s annual report, which is usually published in late November or early December.

A spokesperson for Infrastructure Minister Kinga Surma says work at Ontario Place is already well underway and the redevelopment has been a “competitive, open process” led by nonpartisan officials.

NDP Leader Marit Stiles notes that Surma has cited a “business case” as evidence it will be more cost effective to move the science centre rather than renovate or rebuild it at its current location, but she has so far refused to release it.
 

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Rats have an imagination, brain research reveals

Author of the article:
Washington Post
Washington Post
Mark Johnson, The Washington Post
Published Nov 03, 2023 • 5 minute read


The Scottish philosopher David Hume said that “Men are mightily governed by the imagination.” So too is the humble rat, according to research published Thursday in the journal Science.


Nearly a decade of work culminated in an extraordinary set of experiments in which researchers at Howard Hughes Medical Institute placed rats into a virtual reality arena that provided them with the Jedi-like power to “teleport” themselves or an object to a specific place using only their thoughts.


Authors of the paper said future studies of this kind could lead to the discovery of methods that will help to restore or enhance brain functions by understanding a person’s intentions, and perhaps could broaden our understanding of the memory-loss condition amnesia.

The work built on previous scientific discoveries revealing that deep in the brain animals and humans have their own GPS system. Found in the hippocampus, a region that plays a major role in memory and imagination, this internal GPS system translates places and events into patterns of neurons firing, a sign that the brain cells are communicating. Those patterns are then stored in the brain and used to navigate the everyday world.


The specialized cells that do the work, known as place and grid cells, serve as crucial building blocks that allow us to remember the past and imagine the future. The three scientists who discovered the cells were awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for revealing functions that “are fundamental to our existence.”

“We can lie in bed at night, close our eyes and put ourselves in the past or the future,” said Chongxi Lai, lead author of the new paper and a postdoctoral fellow for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, who is now based at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Imagination is critical to innovation, Lai continued. “Any invention happens twice ― in the inventor’s mind, then in the real world.”


In a 1948 paper, then University of California scientist Edward C. Tolman had hypothesized that rats have an internal map of their environment. However, until the new study, researchers were not able to show that a rat could actually control that map, using it to think about a place that happens to be different from where the rat is at that particular moment.

“This is a very important step,” said Gyorgy Buzsaki, a professor of neuroscience at New York University Langone Medical Center who was not involved in the study. “The hippocampus has the reputation of being the GPS of the brain. Many of us would like to know how [what happens there] is translated into footsteps.”

Although it makes sense that the initial signal to imagine a place would come from the hippocampus, Buzsaki said, it is “super, super difficult” to determine whether any action originates in one part of the brain as opposed to another. The authors of the Science paper focused on place cells, which are found in the hippocampus. Grid cells, the other important part of the GPS system, live in a deep brain area called the entorhinal cortex, which is located close to the hippocampus.


The experiments detailed in the Science paper required that scientists build from scratch machinery capable of reading and then translating the rat’s internal map, to determine what the rodent is thinking at one particular moment.

Lai began work on the project nine years ago after arriving at the Institute’s Janelia Research Campus in Ashburn, Va. He told two of his eventual co-authors on the paper – his adviser Timothy Harris, a senior fellow, and Albert Lee, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator – that he had ideas that would allow them to test whether an animal can think.

Lai said it took four to five years just to build a real-time rat “thought detector.”

Researchers then had to design experiments that took into account what tasks a rodent would be able to perform. At the start, each rat had tiny electrodes implanted at 128 precise locations in its brain. The electrodes were then linked to a machine that would read the rat’s brain activity and learn the specific patterns generated as the rodent moved from one location to another. At each location, the rat’s brain produced a unique pattern of different cells firing at varying levels of intensity.


The rat was suspended with its feet touching a ball-shaped treadmill, which allowed it to navigate through the virtual reality arena. As the rat moved, the electrodes recorded its brain activity.

The scientists had to train the rats to run toward a visual cue in a two-dimensional virtual arena: a bouncing tower-like object. When the rodents touched the cue, they received a reward of sweetened water.

The machine also had to be trained. The machine learned to read the rat’s brain activity and translate it into specific locations in the virtual arena.

For the “teleporting” tests, scientists then disconnected the treadmill from the virtual reality arena. Now the rat could not use its feet to move itself in the arena. Instead, the rat had to imagine a remote location to reach that destination and receive the reward.


In the second test, the rat once again had to imagine a specific remote location, this time to move a virtual object to that position. Throughout the test, the rat remained in a fixed position in the arena.

“The amazing thing is that they learn it rather quickly,” said Lee, who now works at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He said the rats’ rapid learning suggests that it’s relatively natural for an animal to think about a place that is different from its actual location.

While three of the four rats tested were able to perform the experiments, a fourth was not. Lee said there are many possible explanations for the failure of the fourth. For example, the rat could have sustained some slight damage to the hippocampus.

“This is a moderately complex [task], and it could be the case that not every animal can do it,” he said. “The fact that three out of four animals were doing it well, that suggests it is a very solid ability of rats to imagine remote locations.”
 

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Early trauma linked to 48% higher chance of serious headaches
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Linda Searing, The Washington Post
Published Nov 06, 2023 • 2 minute read

People who experienced trauma as a child or adolescent were found to be 48% more likely to have serious and recurrent headaches as an adult than were those who had not experienced trauma in their early years, according to research published in the journal Neurology.

The finding stemmed from the analysis of data from 28 studies, involving 154,739 people.


Overall, nearly one-third of the participants (31%) reported having experienced a traumatic event at least once before age 18, and 16% had been diagnosed as an adult with a primary headache disorder, which means that their headaches (such as migraines, tension or cluster headaches) are the main problem, rather than a symptom of an underlying disease or condition.

The researchers categorized traumatic events as either threat-based (such as physical, sexual or emotional abuse, witnessing or being threatened by violence, and serious family conflicts) or deprivation-based (including neglect, financial adversity, parents’ separation, divorce or death, and living in a household with mental illness, alcohol or substance abuse). Physical abuse, sexual abuse and exposure to family violence were the most commonly reported traumas.


Of those who had experienced at least one traumatic event as a youth, 26% subsequently were diagnosed with primary headaches, compared with 12% of those who had not experienced trauma.

As the number of traumatic events experienced by a child or adolescent increased, so did the odds of their having headaches later in life. For example, those who had experienced four or more traumatic events were more than twice as likely to have a headache disorder. Also, certain traumas – physical or sexual abuse and neglect – were linked to greater risk for headaches than other types of trauma.

The study found an association between trauma as a youth and headache disorder as an adult, rather than direct proof that one led to the other. But the researchers wrote that traumas experienced as a child or adolescent “are important risk factors for primary headache disorders in adulthood,” which one of the researchers described in a statement released by the American Academy of Neurology as “a risk factor that we cannot ignore.”

— This article is part of The Washington Post’s “Big Number” series, which takes a brief look at the statistical aspect of health issues.

For more health news and content around diseases, conditions, wellness, healthy living, drugs, treatments and more, head to Healthing.ca – a member of the Postmedia Network.
 
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13 U.S. tire makers sued over rubber preservative that’s deadly to salmon
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Ed Komenda ()
Published Nov 08, 2023 • 3 minute read

TACOMA, Wash. — The 13 largest U.S. tire manufacturers are facing a lawsuit from a pair of California commercial fishing organizations that could force the companies to stop using a chemical added to almost every tire because it kills migrating salmon.


Also found in footwear, synthetic turf and playground equipment, the rubber preservative 6PPD has been used in tires for 60 years. As tires wear, tiny particles of rubber are left behind on roads and parking lots, breaking down into a byproduct, 6PPD-quinone, that is deadly to salmon, steelhead trout and other aquatic wildlife when rains wash it into rivers.


“This is the biggest environmental disaster that the world doesn’t quite know about yet,” said Elizabeth Forsyth, an attorney with the environmental law firm Earthjustice, which is representing the fishing groups. “It’s causing devastating impacts to threatened and endangered species.”

The Institute for Fisheries Resources and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Wednesday against Goodyear, Bridgestone, Continental and others.


In an emailed statement, Bridgestone spokesman Steve Kinkade said the company would not comment on the lawsuit, but that it “remains committed to safety, quality and the environment and continues to invest in researching alternative and sustainably sourced materials in our products.”

Several of the other tire makers did not immediately return emails seeking comment. The U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association, which is not named as a defendant, also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a statement last week, the trade group said work is already underway to identify a chemical to replace 6PPD while still meeting federal safety standards.

“Any premature prohibition on the use of 6PPD in tires would be detrimental to public safety and the national economy,” the statement said.


The fishing organizations filed the lawsuit a week after U.S. regulators said they would review the use of 6PPD in tires in response to a petition from three West Coast Native American tribes. Coho salmon appear to be especially sensitive to the preservative; it can kill them within hours, the tribes argued.

The tribes — the Yurok in California and the Port Gamble S’Klallam and Puyallup tribes in Washington — asked the Environmental Protection Agency to prohibit 6PPD earlier this year.

The agency’s decision to grant the petition is the start of a long regulatory process that could see it banned — one of several effort on different fronts to recover salmon populations as well as the endangered killer whales in the Pacific Northwest that depend on them.


The chemical’s effect on human health is unknown, the EPA noted.

Forsyth said that as long as 6PPD remains in tires, the companies need a federal permit allowing them to harm species that are protected under the Endangered Species Act. To do so, they would have to show that they’ve mitigated the harm to salmon to the fullest extent possible, which could mean funding stormwater improvements to keep the chemical from entering aquatic habitats.

No tire company has such a permit, the lawsuit said.

“This has been a problem that has been identified by the industry itself for more than a decade,” said Glenn Spain, the northwest regional director at Institute for Fisheries Resources. “You can’t just sit on your thumbs and hope it will go away. It will not go away.”


The commercial fishers represented by the groups depend on the fish for their livelihood, he said.

Replacing the chemical with another that will make rubber durable without killing fish is a tall task, but one the industry can tackle, Forsyth said: “We’re the nation that figured out how to get lead out of gasoline and still have our cars run. It would shock and surprise me if we cannot make a tire that does not kill up to 100% of coho returning to their native streams.”

Salmon spend their early months or years growing and feeding in freshwater streams and estuaries, before entering the ocean to spend the next few years foraging. They then return to the streams where they were born to spawn.

The chemical’s effect on coho was noted in 2020 by scientists in Washington state, who were studying why fish populations that had been restored in the Puget Sound years earlier were struggling.

“This chemical is ubiquitous in stormwater runoff,” Forsyth said. “It’s ubiquitous in aquatic habitats and is ubiquitous at levels that can kill coho salmon and harm salmon and steelhead at very minute levels.”
 
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petros

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Low Earth Orbit
Forsyth said that as long as 6PPD remains in tires, the companies need a federal permit allowing them to harm species that are protected under the Endangered Species Act. To do so, they would have to show that they’ve mitigated the harm to salmon to the fullest extent possible, which could mean funding stormwater improvements to keep the chemical from entering aquatic habitats.
That's disinformation. They are "at risk" not endangered.
 

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New island emerges after undersea volcano erupts off Japan, but it may not last long
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Mari Yamaguchi
Published Nov 09, 2023 • Last updated 17 hours ago • 2 minute read
steam billowing from the waters off Iwoto Island
This aerial photo shows steam billowing from the waters off Iwoto Island, Ogasawara town in the Pacific Ocean, southern Tokyo, on Oct. 30, 2023. PHOTO BY KYODO NEWS /Associated Press
TOKYO — An undersea volcano erupted off Japan three weeks ago, providing a rare view of the birth of a tiny new island, but experts say it may not last very long.


The unnamed undersea volcano, located about 1 kilometre off the southern coast of Iwo Jima, which Japan calls Ioto, started its latest series of eruptions on Oct. 21.


Within 10 days, volcanic ash and rocks piled up on the shallow seabed, its tip rising above the sea surface. By early November, it became a new island about 100 metres (328 feet) in diameter and as high as 20 metres (66 feet) above the sea, according to Yuji Usui, an analyst in the Japan Meteorological Agency’s volcanic division.

Volcanic activity has increased near Iwo Jima and similar undersea eruptions have occurred in recent years, but the formation of a new island is a significant development, Usui said.

Volcanic activity at the site has since subsided, and the newly formed island has somewhat shrunk because its “crumbly” formation is easily washed away by waves, Usui said.


He said experts are still analyzing the development, including details of the deposits. The new island could survive longer if it is made of lava or something more durable than volcanic rocks such as pumice.

“We just have to see the development,” he said. “But the island may not last very long.”

Undersea volcanoes and seismic activities have formed new islands in the past.

In 2013, an eruption at Nishinoshima in the Pacific Ocean south of Tokyo led to the formation of a new island, which kept growing during a decadelong eruption of the volcano.

Also in 2013, a small island surfaced from the seabed after a massive 7.7-magnitude earthquake in Pakistan. In 2015, a new island was formed as a result of a monthlong eruption of a submarine volcano off the coast of Tonga.

Of about 1,500 active volcanoes in the world, 111 are in Japan, which sits on the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire,” according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Iwo Jima was the site of some of the fiercest fighting of World War II, and the photograph taken by AP photographer Joe Rosenthal of a flag-raising atop the island’s Mount Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945, came to symbolize the Pacific War and the valor of the U.S. Marines.
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Arkansas man gets world's first whole-eye transplant
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Praveena Somasundaram, The Washington Post
Published Nov 10, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 4 minute read

Sitting in an intensive care unit earlier this year, Aaron James held up a white mirror and looked at his face for the first time after a 21-hour surgery so risky that doctors had warned him there was a chance he might not survive it.


Back in 2021, James lost his nose, lips, chin, front teeth and left eye after an accident while working as a high-voltage lineman.


In the reflection from the handheld mirror, where there had been an empty divot for nearly two years, James saw he now had a whole eye. He’d also received transplants of his nose, lips and chin bone, among other portions of his face. The surgery made it possible for James to breathe through his nose and eat solid foods again.

James’s procedure is the first whole-eye and partial-face transplant ever performed, NYU Langone Health announced Thursday. A team of more than 140 people helped complete the procedure in late May, led by Eduardo Rodriguez, director of NYU Langone’s Face Transplant Program. Doctors are unsure whether James will ever be able to see out of his transplanted left eye, but it has shown “remarkable signs of health,” NYU Langone said in a news release.


James now has monthly follow-up visits and participates in various therapies for his recovery. He can’t open his left eye just yet, but the nerves are growing, and he has started squinting, Rodriguez said, adding that his team would continue monitoring the eye and that the procedure itself was a step toward learning more about how to restore sight.

“Whether I can see or not, so be it,” James said at a news conference Thursday. “It is what it is, but hopefully this will help with future patients.”

On June 10, 2021, James was working in a bucket truck when a live wire touched his face. He suffered an electric shock of 7,200 volts.

“Most individuals don’t survive that level of injury,” Rodriguez said at the news conference.


After the accident, James lost his left eye and parts of his face and his left arm.

Doctors at NYU Langone soon became familiar with James’s case. When his left eye had to be removed because it was causing him extreme pain, Rodriguez’s team recommended that surgeons cut the optic nerve close to the eyeball in an effort to leave as much nerve length as possible for a potential future transplant, NYU Langone said in its news release.

In the months afterward, James started wearing an eye patch and face covering. Despite those early reconstructive surgeries, James could not eat with his remaining teeth.

In a NYU Langone video about the procedure, James recalled worrying about the toll the accident and its aftermath would take on his family.


“Look, if you want to leave, you know, I get it,” he’d told his wife, Meagan.

“No,” she’d said back. “We’re in this until the end.”

In June 2022, one year after the accident, James had his first clinical appointment at NYU Langone to discuss the eye and face transplant procedure and undergo an initial evaluation. A few months later, Rodriguez visited James and his family in Hot Springs, Ark., for a field assessment so the medical team could gauge the kind of support and resources he would have in his hometown if he underwent the surgery.

During the visit, Rodriguez saw a sign in the family’s home that demonstrated James’s willingness to take on the procedure, he said during the news conference. It read: “The happiest people don’t have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything.”


Following the visit, Rodriguez and his team reviewed the procedure and its risk with James and his family. There was a chance it could kill him. But James knew he wanted to do it – for himself and, if it was successful, for future patients who could benefit from similar transplants, he said during the news conference.

In February, James was put on a waiting list for a donor. As the family waited to hear back, the NYU Langone team rehearsed the procedure 15 times.

Three months later, they found a donor for James. The skin colour was a perfect match, and the skeletal structure of the donor’s face was off by just one millimeter, Rodriguez told James in a conversation recorded by NYU Langone.

“If you don’t want to do this, you can pull out at any minute,” Rodriguez said in the video.


James shook his head.

Sitting beside him, his wife said “He’s ready.”

“Yeah, I’m ready,” James said.

The surgery began the morning of May 27 and finished the following day, marking the first whole-eye transplant in a human and the only successful whole-eye and partial-face transplant case of its kind, according to NYU Langone.

“All our rehearsals paid off,” Rodriguez said in the center’s video. “Everything went exactly as we had planned.”

After the procedure, James spent about two weeks in the intensive care unit before he was discharged in early July, NYU Langone said in its release. He went back to Arkansas in September.

Now, whenever James passes a mirror, he can’t help but look in it, he said at the news conference. And though he initially wore an eye patch after the transplant, he doesn’t anymore.

“I kind of like everybody seeing me now,” James said.
 

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Could a supervolcano really wipe out humanity? One has been starting to stir
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Kasha Patel, The Washington Post
Published Nov 10, 2023 • 4 minute read
The Old Faithful geyser is among the national park's myriad hydrothermal features created by the Yellowstone supervolcano.
The Old Faithful geyser is among the national park's myriad hydrothermal features created by the Yellowstone supervolcano. PHOTO BY JONATHAN NEWTON /The Washington Post
Underneath the vineyards and thermal spas in southern Italy, magma churns to create one of the world’s most active volcanic systems in a region known as Campi Flegrei.


Outside of Naples, Campi Flegrei does not appear as a typical volcanic mountain but is a bowl-shaped depression peppered with craters. Smelly steam oozes from vents, mud gurgles from pools, and small earthquakes send shocks to hundreds of thousands of residents living in the volcano’s mouth. Mythology suggests Campi Flegrei, meaning “burning fields” in Italian, is associated with the gates to hell.


It’s also dubbed a “supervolcano” – a rare but unofficial label given to those that have produced the most intense eruptions in Earth’s history. Campi Flegrei’s super outburst occurred around 39,000 years ago (determined through rock records) and spewed gases and nearly a trillion gallons of molten rock, blocking sunlight and triggering intense cooling. The most recent eruption, much smaller, occurred in 1538 and created a roughly 120-metre-tall mound.


Now, recent months of earthquake activity at Campi Flegrei – more than 2,500 earthquakes as intense as a 4.3-magnitude since September – has stirred concerns that the volcano could super-strike again soon. But researchers say that’s not how supervolcanoes work and cast doubts for a prophetic outburst.

Tourists line the boardwalk of the Grand Prismatic hot spring, which was created by the Yellowstone supervolcano.
Tourists line the boardwalk of the Grand Prismatic hot spring, which was created by the Yellowstone supervolcano. PHOTO BY JONATHAN NEWTON /The Washington Post
What does it mean to be a supervolcano?
“When a volcano is called a supervolcano, what we really mean is it had a super eruption once, at least, in the past,” said Christopher Kilburn, a volcanologist at University College London. “But that doesn’t mean that it’s going to have other super eruptions in the future. . . . Very, very, very large eruptions are much, much rarer.”

Scientists can’t see what is stirring below the surface of Campi Flegrei with their naked eyes, but Kilburn said the recent activity could be underground molten rock and fluids readjusting themselves. Those movements appear as earthquakes on the surface.


“This, by itself, doesn’t mean there’s going to be an eruption,” Kilburn said. The volcano has shown land deformations and earthquakes in the past, but eruptions didn’t follow. But because the activity is stirring after a long time, “it’s natural just to be a little bit concerned that this might be happening.”

Out of more than 1,000 known volcanoes in the world, only about 20 are supposedly supervolcanoes. Technically, they are defined as those that register the highest on the volcanic explosivity index, which runs from V0 (nonexplosive) to V8 (colossal eruptions). Such a super eruption ejects a volume of around 1,000-cubic kilometres or more – about a thousand times bigger than Mount St. Helens (V5), which caused mudslides, fires, floods and more than 50 deaths in 1980.


The last V8 eruption occurred around 27,000 years ago in Taupo, New Zealand.

Such intense volcanic outbursts usually leave behind a depression known as a caldera, instead of a volcanic cone. Kilburn said that’s because the eruptions are throwing out a large volume of material – molten rock stored a few miles below the surface – in a very short amount of time. The ground becomes unstable and sinks.

Unless you’re looking out for these depressions, he said you may miss it.

“You can drive across the caldera and come out the other side and not really appreciate the fact that’s what you’ve done because the changes are quite gentle,” Kilburn said.

Once the massive eruption ends, Kilburn said the volcano resets and becomes “ordinary,” sometimes producing more normal-size eruptions across the caldera floor. In other words, there’s nothing inherently “super” about a supervolcano after it erupts, making the label a bit misleading.


Yellowstone, one of the world’s most famous supervolcanoes, measures 30 by 45 miles and welcomes millions of tourists to its park. Its largest eruption occurred 2.1 million years ago, ejecting more than 2,400 cubic kilometres of material. Like many caldera systems, the majority of Yellowstone’s eruptions have since been much smaller.

‘A made-up word’
Supervolcano is “a made-up word,” said volcanologist Michael Poland, scientist in charge at the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. “I think it’s misleading. I think it’s misapplied. I can’t stand that term. I wish it would go into the dustbin, but it’s too sexy.”

Like superman or superstar, supervolcano sounds too Hollywood for his taste. It implies an apocalyptic-like explosion, but no explosive volcanic eruption has caused a mass extinction to our knowledge, he said.


The largest volcanic explosion in the geologic record is thought to have occurred in Toba, Indonesia, around 74,000 years ago, registering a V8 on the volcanic explosivity index. Some scientists initially speculated that the eruption almost wiped out humanity because populations declined shortly after, but archaeological evidence showed Homo sapiens farther away were thriving after the eruption.

“No explosive volcanic eruption that we know of has ever been associated with a mass extinction of plant or animal life,” said Poland, who’s also a scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). “That’s not to say it wouldn’t be devastating or hard to live through.”

Many speculate on what would happen if Yellowstone had another super eruption. The USGS said surrounding states would receive fast, hot avalanches of volcanic ash, pumice, gases and rocks. Ashfall could remain thick hundreds of miles away and be transported across the world. Small aerosol particles emitted from the volcano would reflect the sunlight back into space, causing cooling on the surface and affect agriculture.


But scientists are skeptical that a super eruption could happen again at Yellowstone. The volcano may not even have enough molten magma underneath its caldera to instigate an eruption, according to USGS.

Additionally, Kilburn doesn’t think “anybody’s thinking there’s going to be another super eruption” at Campi Flegrei in the near future. But a smaller eruption could have major effects given more than 1 million people live in and around the area. Local officials send out alerts based on the volcano’s activity and prepare evacuation plans.

Local authorities have “to take the possibility of an eruption into account,” Kilburn said. “Not saying that it’s likely, but it would be remiss if they ignored that option.”
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Wildlife refuge pond in Hawaii mysteriously turns bright pink
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Audrey Mcavoy
Published Nov 10, 2023 • 2 minute read
Shad Hanohano, from left, Leilani Fagner and their daughter Meleana Hanohano view the pink water at the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge in Kihei, Hawaii on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023.
Shad Hanohano, from left, Leilani Fagner and their daughter Meleana Hanohano view the pink water at the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge in Kihei, Hawaii on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023. PHOTO BY MATTHEW THAYER /The Maui News via AP
HONOLULU — A pond in Hawaii has turned so bubble-gum pink it could be from the set of “Barbie,” but the bizarre phenomenon is no cause for a dance party. Drought may be to blame for the strange hue, scientists say, and they’re warning against entering the water or drinking it.


Staff at the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge on Maui have been monitoring the pink water since Oct. 30.


“I just got a report from somebody that was walking on the beach, and they called me up like, ‘There’s something weird going on over here,”‘ said Bret Wolfe, the refuge manager.

Severino Urubio of Hilo, Hawaii snaps photos of Kealia Pond’s pink water at Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge in Kihei, Hawaii on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023.
Severino Urubio of Hilo, Hawaii snaps photos of Kealia Pond’s pink water at Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge in Kihei, Hawaii on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023. PHOTO BY MATTHEW THAYER /The Maui News via AP
Wolfe was concerned the bright pink could be a sign of an algae bloom, but lab tests found toxic algae was not causing the colour. Instead an organism called halobacteria might be the culprit.

Halobacteria are a type of archaea or single-celled organism that thrive in bodies of water with high levels of salt. The salinity inside the Kealia Pond outlet area is currently greater than 70 parts per thousand, which is twice the salinity of seawater. Wolfe said the lab will need to conduct a DNA analysis to definitively identify the organism.


Maui’s drought is likely contributing to the situation. Normally Waikapu Stream feeds into Kealia Pond and raises water levels there, but Wolfe said that hasn’t happened in a long time.

When it rains, the stream will flow into Kealia’s main pond and then into the outlet area that’s now pink. This will reduce the salinity and potentially change the water’s colour.

“That might be what makes it go away,” Wolfe said.

No one at the refuge has seen the pond this colour before — not even volunteers who have been around it for 70 years. The pond has been through periods of drought and high salinity before, though, and Wolfe isn’t sure why the colour has changed now.

Curious visitors have flocked to the park after photos of the pink pond appeared on social media.


“We prefer that they come to hear about our our mission conserving native and endangered waterbirds and our wetland restorations. But no, they’re here to see the pink water,” Wolfe joked.

He understands everyone’s fascination.

“If that’s what gets them there, it’s OK,” he said. “It is neat.”

The wildlife refuge is a wetland that provides nesting, feeding and resting habitat to the endangered Hawaiian stilt, known as aeo, and the Hawaiian coot or alae keokeo. It also hosts migratory birds during the winter.

The water doesn’t appear to be harming the birds, Wolfe said.

As a wildlife refuge, people aren’t supposed to wade into the pond or let their pets in the water regardless of its colour. But officials are taking an extra precaution to warn people not to enter the water or eat any fish caught there because the source of the colour has yet to be identified.
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